At last a dry day and a bit of sunshine to brighten up the winter garden. It really feels like Spring is on its way with the early Spring bulbs just beginning to emerge to produce a beautiful tapestry of colour. (All the backache of those countless Autumn Fridays really was worthwhile as we are able to admire the fruits of our labour!).
Continuing the theme, Julia and Clare talked about some of the bulbs we can be planting in the garden over the next couple of months for Summer and Autumn flowering displays.
The term “bulb” refers to all bulbous flowering plants which include corms, rhizomes, tubers and true bulbs. All bulbous plants have a part of the plant which is swollen into a food storage organ. This enables the plant to survive when dormant or when conditions are unsuitable for growing.
Corms – eg. Crocosmia ‘George Davison’
Crocosmia is a small genus of flowering plants in the Iradaceae (Iris) family and its bulb is an example of a corm. It is also known as Montbretia in the UK or Coppertops in the USA and is a perennial with branching heads of flowers and sword shaped leaves. Originally from the grasslands of Southern and Eastern Africa they were introduced to the UK 125 years ago. C. ‘George Davison’ is a clump-forming perennial with branching stems carrying light orange-yellow flowers from orange buds.
They grow from a corm which is a swollen stem base, with the new corm growing on top of the old one, taking energy from this year’s foliage. Corms have a basal plate and one or more growing points at the tip and have no rings when cut in half.
They should be planted in spring when all danger of frosts has gone. Plant with the pointy end up and water weekly. Spent flowers should be removed by cutting back the whole stem to where the leaves are and they should flower for five to eight weeks. They flower best in full sun or partial shade, in fertile humus-rich well drained soil and do not like hot dry sites.
There are many varieties available which vary widely in height and colour: Jackanapes and Canary Bird can be as small as 69cm or 24 inches whilst Lucifer and Columbus can reach 120 cm or 48 inches.
Other bulbs grown from corms are gladiolus, crocus and freesia.
Rhizomes – eg. Canna ‘Wyoming’
Canna Lilies grow from rhizomes or underground stems which are swollen and lie almost horizontally. C. ‘Wyoming’ is a strong growing plant with an erect stem, deep bronze ovate leaves and rich orange flowers Growing to almost 1m and blooming from mid summer through to early autumn, it adds good structure to the garden and adds a tropical, exotic look to displays. It also looks good in containers. This has been awarded a RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
For best results, plant in full sun in a sheltered spot, (4 inches deep) in humus-rich but well drained, moist soil. (The rhizome should be planted with the tips facing up). Keep dead-heading regularly to encourage new blooms and an addition of a good mulch would benefit by keeping down the weeds and conserving moisture.
For those of you with a heated greenhouse, it can be started off in late March planted in a 20cm pot with its young shoots exposed. It should be watered lightly and then moved to an unheated greenhouse in April to harden off until the danger of frost has passed.
Tubers – eg. Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and Anemona coronaria De Caen Group
Dahlias are tubers which are irregularly -shapped underground storage organs for nutrients, providing energy for the plant throughout the growing season. They are tender perennials and so will require protection during the winter months.
Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is one of the most well know dahlias and was bred in Cardiff in 1924 by Fred Treseder for the then Bishop of Llandaff, going on to be awarded a RHS AGM in 1928. It has dark blackish-red stems and foliage with semi-double bright red flowers and will flower from June through to September/October. It grows to approx 1m.
The tubers should be firm and plump when planting and so discard any that are shrivelled or soft. In April they can be planted in pots in a mixture of good potting compost and well rotted manure and kept under cover in the greenhouse until all danger of frosts has passed (usually in May). They can then be brought out of the greenhouse and either left in their pots (in which case they would benefit from a good feed) or planted deeply in the open garden in a sunny spot. They are greedy and so will need regular watering and feeding over the growing season. Although they like a humus-rich soil, they also like good drainage and so an addition of horticultural grit when planting is good for heavy soils. It is a good idea to stake them when planting.
Anemone coronaria (also known as windflowers, poppy anemones and Spanish marigolds and are native to the Mediterranean region) are tuberous herbaceous perennials growing to 40cm, blooming from April to June. The De Caen Group have finely-dissected, palmate leaves and red, blue/violet or white flowers. They are valued by florists as they can be available nearly all year round. Gardeners can achieve a similar long season of flowering by planting the corms during different seasons, eg. April for June and in June for September flowering. They can be lifted after flowering but if left in the soil, they will naturalise to flower annually during the spring.
The hard black corms are very different from dahlia tubers and often benefit from soaking in a bowl of tepid water before planting. This is said to encourage them to sprout faster and develop a good network of roots. They should then be planted in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil and mulched with well-rotted manure or compost.
True bulbs – eg. Nerine bowdenii ‘Ostara’
True bulbs are formed from swollen leaf bases and are made up of concentric rings of scales attached to a basal plate. (Some have a dry protective layer or skin, eg. daffodils and tulips).
Nerine, commonly known as the Guernsey or Jersey Lily is a species of flowering plant in the Amaryllidaceae family of herbaceous perennials such as daffodils and snowdrops. Nerines are summer dormant perennial bulbs and have six narrow petals and prominent stamens. There are 30 species although only a couple are hardy outdoors in the UK – bowdenii and undulate. All are native to South Africa, particularly the Drakensberg mountains and were introduced in 1903 by Cornish Bowden, hence the name. They are sometimes known as Guernsey Lilly as Nerine sarniensis became naturalised when a ship from Japan carrying the bulbs was wrecked on the coast of Guernsey – hence the name Guernsey Lilly.
Nerine bowdenii are the easiest to grow and can be planted outdoors or in a sunny sheltered position from autumn through to early spring. Disappointingly, flowering is often poor in their first year. They are fussy plants – disliking shade and do not compete well with other plants. They dislike being moved and actually flower better when the bulbs become congested. Leaves appear in the spring and then die down in summer, going on to flower in autumn. They are great additions to any garden as they extend the flowering season from September into November.
Nerine bowdenii ‘Ostara’ grow to 50cm high and have rich green strappy leaves which die away ro reveal erect stems bearing clusters of pale pink lily-like flowers.
Jobs this week:
Pruning was the order of the day this week as we sought to control and tidy before things really start growing.
- Pruning the honeysuckle and rose over the arch near the potting shed.
- Pruning the two apple trees, particularly looking out for water shoots – this is where a branch has been pruned previously and several whip-like shoots or “water sprouts” have grown up in its place.
- Constructing a support out of bamboo canes for the cherry tree at the back of the greenhouse.
- Securing down the old moss rose shoots and tying up Rosa ‘William Lobb’
- Pruning and tying in Rosa ‘Albertine’ and Clematis ‘Alba Luxurians’.
- Pruning the red and black currants along with the quince tree to open up the garden and reduce the risk of disease.
- Potting on the chard and stipa in the greenhouse.
So good to be outside again and fingers crossed winter is on its way out…..